The Fault in Our Stars
|Cover artist||Rodrigo Corral|
|Genre||Young adult novel|
|January 10, 2012|
|Media type||Print (hardcover, paperback)|
The Fault in Our Stars is the sixth novel by author John Green, published in January 2012. The story is narrated by a sixteen-year-old cancer patient named Hazel Grace Lancaster, who is forced by her parents to attend a support group, where she subsequently meets and falls in love with the seventeen-year-old Augustus Waters, an ex-basketball player and amputee.
The title is inspired from Act 1, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, in which the nobleman Cassius says to Brutus: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen-year-old Indianapolis teenager with terminal thyroid cancer that has metastasized to her lungs, reluctantly attends a cancer patients' support group at her mother's behest. During a support meeting, Hazel meets Augustus Waters, whose osteosarcoma caused him to lose his leg. Augustus is at the meeting to support their mutual friend, Isaac, who is losing his remaining eye to cancer. The two bond immediately after the meeting and Augustus invites Hazel to his house where the two bond over a movie and their experiences with cancer. Before departing, the two agree to read each other's favorite novels. Augustus gives Hazel The Price of Dawn, and Hazel recommends An Imperial Affliction, a novel about a cancer-stricken girl named Anna that parallels Hazel's own experience. After Augustus finishes reading her book, he is frustrated upon learning that the novel ends abruptly without a conclusion. Hazel explains the novel's mysterious author, Peter van Houten, had retreated to Amsterdam following the novel's publication and has not been heard from since.
A week later, Augustus reveals to Hazel that he has tracked down Van Houten's assistant, Lidewij, and, through her, has managed to start e-mail correspondence with Van Houten. Hazel writes to van Houten with questions regarding the novel's ambiguous ending and the fate of the mother of the protagonist, Anna. Van Houten eventually replies, explaining that he can only answer Hazel's questions in person. Hazel proposes the trip to her mother but is rejected due to financial and medical constraints. Later, at a Dutch-themed picnic, Augustus surprises Hazel with tickets to Amsterdam, attained through a charitable foundation. She is thrilled, but when he touches her face she feels hesitant for some reason. Later, she looks up Augustus's ex-girlfriend, Caroline Mathers, who died of brain cancer. On Caroline's memorial page, a comment by Caroline's friend causes Hazel to compare herself to a grenade: Hazel loves Augustus and fears hurting him when she dies.
As she struggles with her love for Augustus and her death, Hazel suffers an episode of pleural effusion and is sent to the ICU, prompting her parents and her doctors to question the safety of overseas travel. The medical team argues against the trip until Dr. Maria, one of the physicians most familiar with her case, convinces Hazel's parents that Hazel must travel because she needs to live her life. When Hazel and Gus first get to Amsterdam, they go to a restaurant and find that Van Houten paid for their meal and champagne. Augustus then confesses his love for Hazel that night. Hazel and Augustus finally meet van Houten but are shocked to find that, instead of a prolific genius, he is a mean-spirited drunk. Horrified by Van Houten's behavior, Lidewij confesses to having arranged the meeting on his behalf, angering van Houten, who proceeds to insult Hazel's cancer and refuses to answer any of her questions. The two leave the author in anger and disappointment.
Accompanied by Lidewij, Hazel and Augustus visit the Anne Frank House. Hazel struggles to climb the many stairs and ladders leading up to the attic due to her lungs but by the end of the tour, Augustus and Hazel share a romantic kiss, followed by an applause from the other tourists in the attic. They return to the hotel and have sex for the first time. The next day, Augustus confesses that a recent PET scan revealed his cancer to have relapsed. Resolute, the two affirm their love and support for each other. Upon their return to Indianapolis, Augustus' health significantly worsens. Augustus ends up in the ICU for a few days. In his final days, Augustus invites Isaac and Hazel to his pre-funeral, where they give eulogies. Hazel quotes Van Houten about "larger and smaller infinities", reaffirms her love for him, and states that she would not trade their short time together for anything in the world. Augustus dies eight days later.
At the funeral, Hazel is astonished to find van Houten in attendance. He explains that he and Augustus maintained correspondence since Amsterdam and that Augustus had demanded he make up for ruining their trip by attending his funeral. In an attempt for forgiveness, van Houten tries to reveal the fate of Anna's mother. Hazel, still upset with his behavior, asks him to leave.
A few days later, while talking with Isaac, Hazel learns that Augustus may have been writing a sequel to An Imperial Affliction for her. As Hazel searches for the pages, she again encounters a drunk Van Houten. He confides in Hazel that his novel was a literary attempt to reconcile with the death of his daughter, Anna, who died from cancer when she was eight. Hazel tells Van Houten to sober up and write another book.
Eventually Hazel learns that Augustus sent the pages to Van Houten because he wanted Van Houten to use the pages to compose a well-written eulogy about Hazel. Lidewij forces Van Houten to read the pages and sends them to Hazel. Hazel reads Augustus's words. He says getting hurt in this world is inevitable, but we do get to choose who we allow to hurt us, and that he is happy with his choice. He hopes she likes her choice too. Hazel states she does.
Green stated that the first inspiration for The Fault in Our Stars came from when he worked as a student chaplain at a children's hospital. He found the children to be as human as healthy people, and wanted to capture the feeling that "the stories that I was reading sort of oversimplified and sometimes even dehumanized them. And I think generally we have a habit of imagining the very sick or the dying as being kind of fundamentally other. I guess I wanted to argue for their humanity, their complete humanity." He was initially intimidated by the idea and knew that it was not his story to tell, but said he has received positive comments from sick children. The novel was also influenced by Esther Earl, a girl whom Green was friends with who died when she was 16 years old of thyroid cancer. Green credits Earl for inspiring him to finally write the book, as she demonstrated how a short life could also be a full one. Green was able to add the humor he wanted to the story, as in 2000 when he received the inspiration at the hospital he was too angry at people dying young that he did not feel he would be able to capture the complexity of their lives. In its early stages, the novel was about a group of young cancer patients who formed a "Dead Person's Society", and would sneak out to convene in a cave near the children's hospital. The birth of his first child during the writing process also influenced The Fault in Our Stars, as it allowed him to understand the love between parent and child.
Green once considered writing the story from Isaac's point of view, as it fit into the epic genre, going so far as the storyteller being blind. Ultimately, he decided to use Hazel's point of view, as books rarely depict cancer patients from their point of view. Hazel's father's belief that "the universe wants to be noticed" came from YouTuber Vi Hart, who explained her point of view to Green in conversation. Green has stated that the last line of the book, "I do", symbolizes marriage because "Shakespeare's comedies end in marriage and his tragedies end in death, and I was rather fond of the idea that my book could end (symbolically, at least) in both."
On December 21, 2011, Barnes & Noble accidentally shipped 1500 copies of The Fault in Our Stars before the release date to people who had pre-ordered the book. Green released a statement saying, "Mistakes happen. The people who made this error were not bad or incompetent people, and they were not acting maliciously. We all make mistakes, and it is not my wish to see Barnes and Noble or any of their employees vilified." Many people who received the book pledged not to read it until its release date, January 10, 2012, or discuss it until the next day, January 11, as per a request of Green's not to spoil it for other readers. Most kept to this promise leaving the experience untarnished for those who got the book on intended release date.
The book rose to #1 on the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists in June 2011 shortly after its title was announced. Green promised that every pre-order would be hand-signed by him, requiring him to sign every copy of the first printing. He proposed that the general public vote on the color Sharpie he would use to sign the books, resulting in him signing the 150,000 books with a variety of Sharpie colors, each in proportion to the amount of votes received for that color. However, some people who ordered from international booksellers received unsigned copies because those bookstores, including Amazon UK, underestimated how many books they needed and ordered more after the signing was complete, but Green agreed to fix this problem, telling people with unsigned pre-orders to email him so they could be sent a signed bookplate. Many fans submitted their book cover designs to various outlets including Tumblr and Twitter, tagging Green in these posts so he could see them. The sizeable number of posts received has prompted Green's publisher Penguin to seek a fan-designed cover for a reprint of one of Green's other books, An Abundance of Katherines. The Fault in Our Stars debuted at #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list for Children's Chapter Books and remained in that spot for seven consecutive weeks. A Hebrew edition of The Fault in Our Stars was published in Israel on August 2012 and more editions of the novel are forthcoming in Dutch, German, Spanish, French, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, Chinese, and Portuguese. The Fault in Our Stars has also gained places on several bestseller lists. It was #1 on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, #1 on the Indiebound bestseller list, and #9 on The Bookseller bestseller list. The novel was also the New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice. As of January 2013, there are nearly 1 million copies of the novel in print. In December 2012 it was announced that a special edition with a silver cover and an expanded Q&A, dubbed the 'Exclusive Collector's Edition', would be available from Barnes and Noble. All or at least most of the copies first available for purchase of this edition of the book contained a printing error wherein several pages of the first chapter were replaced with pages from the Q&A section at the back of the book.
The Fault in Our Stars has received highly positive reviews from critics. The New York Times' review of the book called it "a blend of melancholy, sweet, philosophical and funny" and said that it "stays the course of tragic realism", while noting that the book's unpleasant plot details "do nothing to diminish the romance; in Green’s hands, they only make it more moving." NPR's Rachel Syme noted that "[Green's] voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization," saying that the "elegantly plotted" book "may be his best."  Time called The Fault in Our Stars "damn near genius." Entertainment Weekly wrote, "[Augustus and Hazel's] love story is as real as it is doomed, and the gut-busting laughs that come early in the novel make the luminous final pages all the more heartbreaking", and gave the novel an overall A− grade. Amazon.com calls it “insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw” and Green’s “most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet.” The Manila Bulletin says that the book is "a collection of maudlin scenes and trite observations about the fragility of life and the wisdom of dying. And while it does talk about those things and more, the treatment of it is far from being maudlin or trite." The Manila Bulletin also added that "Just two paragraphs into the work, and he immediately wallops the readers with such an insightful observation delivered in such an unsentimental way that its hard not to shake your head in admiration." The Manila Bulletin stated that The Fault in Our Stars was a triumph for John Green. USA Today called it a "elegiac comedy." They gave the book a rating of four out of four stars.The School Library Journal stated that it was "a strong choice for Adult Collections." The Fault in Our Stars received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who described it as "a smartly crafted intellectual explosion of a romance."
Several well-known authors have contributed their own positive reviews for the book. Jodi Picoult, author of My Sister's Keeper, calls The Fault in Our Stars "an electric portrait of young people who learn to live life with one foot in the grave." She goes on to say that the novel is "filled with staccato bursts of humor and tragedy." Bestselling author of The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, describes it as "a novel of life and death and the people caught in between" and "John Green at his best". Pertaining to Green's writing throughout the book, E. Lockhart, author of The Boyfriend List, says "He makes me laugh and gasp at the beauty of a sentence or the twist of a tale. He is one of the best writers alive and I am seething with envy of his talent." Time named The Fault in Our Stars as the #1 fiction book of 2012. Kirkus Reviews listed it among the top 100 children's books of 2012. It also made USA Today's list of the top 10 books of 2012. In 2013, the Edmonton Journal named the book one of their "favourite books of the year."
One notable unfavorable opinion appeared in the Daily Mail. In the piece, the plot of The Fault in Our Stars was described as ″mawkish at best, exploitative at worst″ and the book was characterized as belonging to the ″sick-lit″ young adult genre, together with other young-adult novels such as Never Eighteen and Before I Die. This entire genre, as well as the genre of young-adult novels dealing with suicide and self-harm (the piece mentions Thirteen Reasons Why; By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead; The Lovely Bones; and Red Tears) was criticized as being ″distasteful″ and inappropriate for their target audience of teens. The Guardian criticized the piece, pointing out in particular that The Fault in Our Stars was chosen by The Guardian as that month's ″teen book club choice″ because ″it's a gripping read, featuring two compelling characters, that deals sensitively and even humorously with a difficult situation without descending into mawkishness.″ In general, The Guardian faulted The Daily Mail for suggesting that the issues of illness, depression, and sexuality are inappropriate precisely ″in the one place where difficult subjects have traditionally been most sensitively explored for teens: fiction written specifically for them.″ However, Meg Rosoff, a writer of young adult novels, sided with The Daily Mail in her comment to the reply by writing in her blog, Almost True, "Don't throw the baby out with the Sick Lit." For his part, in an interview for The Guardian, John Green said, ″The thing that bothered me about The Daily Mail piece was that it was a bit condescending to teenagers. I'm tired of adults telling teenagers that they aren't smart, that they can't read critically, that they aren't thoughtful, and I feel like that article made those arguments.″
In January 2012, Fox 2000, a division of 20th Century Fox, optioned the rights to adapt the novel into a feature film. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber wrote the adapted screenplay. Josh Boone signed on to direct a year later, in February 2013. Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen produced the film. Shailene Woodley stars as Hazel, while Ansel Elgort plays Augustus. Nat Wolff was cast as Isaac, the friend that introduces them, and Laura Dern stars as Hazel's mother. Sam Trammell was cast as Mr. Lancaster, Hazel's father. On August 29, 2013, John Green announced that Mike Birbiglia would be playing Patrick, and on September 6, 2013, Green announced that Willem Dafoe would portray Peter Van Houten.
Principal photography began on August 26, 2013 in Pittsburgh, which doubled for the novel's setting of Indianapolis, Indiana, with a few days in Amsterdam, Netherlands before concluding October 16, 2013. The film was released on June 6, 2014 in the United States. It was positively received by critics, with praise going to Woodley's performance as well as the entire film. The film also proved to be commercially successful, retaining the No. 1 spot at the box-office during its opening weekend, and grossed over $266 million worldwide against its budget of $12 million. It is scheduled for release on Blu-Ray and DVD on September 16, 2014.
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